For any carpenter doing modeling, cutting, carving, and engraving projects, a small project CNC router is essential for you to get everything right. Plus, you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor if you can get yourself the best small shop CNC milling machine.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get the best possible products. I am aware that most carpenters are wrong when it comes to buying a CNC milling machine, which is due to the large number of similar products available on the market.
In an attempt to help you get your money’s worth, I looked at the best CNC routers that will fit your small shop perfectly.
In addition, you will find a buyer’s guide that will provide you with the necessary information to guide your decision to purchase these routers.
Our Top Pick
Last update on 2022-11-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Top 10 Best CNC Machine To Buy In 2021
Last update on 2022-11-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
10 Best CNC Machine Review
- New Version: Genmitsu Cnc 3018-Pro Is An Upgraded Version Of 3018. All Components Do Not Need To Be Positioned, Which Greatly Reduces The Difficulty Of Assembly And Improves The Working Accuracy. The Base Height Is Raised To 4Cm For Better Stability. Capable Of Cutting All Types Of Plastics, Soft Aluminum, Woods, Acrylics, Pvcs, And Pcbs, The Genmitsu Can Be Used On A Wide Range Of Projects And Materials
- Upgraded Power Adapter: Ul Approved And Out-Of-The-Box Support For The Drop In 20,000Rpm Spindle, No Need To Modify G-Code To Ramp Up To Full Speed
- Controller Software: The Genmitsu 3018-Pro Uses Grbl, A High-Performance Open-Source Software For Controlling Movement, And Runs On Arduino. Its Dependability And Simplicity Make Grbl An Industry Standard, So There’S No Lack Of Support And Resources Available When You Get Stuck. Includes Carveco Maker Cam Design Software And Candle For Controlling Your Machine And Running Your Gcode Design Files
- Optional Upgraded Parts: Super Size Your 3018 Cnc To A 3040 By Getting A Genmitsu 3040 Y-Axis Extension Kit (B08P2S3Jwp). The 3040 Aluminum Spoilboard (B08Vnlp24C) And 3040 Mdf Spoilboard (B08Wz8Rv3Y) For This Extension Kit Are Also Available To Buy
- Structure Upgrade: Masuter Pro is an All-Aluminum CNC router machine, which makes the machine sturdier than the last version. The Z-axis uses Linear Rail instead of rods and T8 lead screw, this greatly improves the stability and accuracy.
- Upgraded Controller Box: The control board is upgraded to a compact controller box. The emergency stop button and home button are more easily and more convenient to access. The control box is also dust-proof for easy maintenance.
- Compatibility Upgrade: Masuter Pro includes 2 spindle clamps: 52mm & 65mm. The 52mm clamp can accommodate the 60W spindle, 300W spindle and the FoxAlien 20W/40W modules. The 65mm clamp is for customized upgrade, such as 65mm router, 1.5KW spindle, etc. It also supports the 69mm spindle clamp, please buy separately.
- Assembly Upgrade: Main parts are pre-assembled, and the part of the wires are pre-wired to the controller box. It takes only 10-15 minutes to fully assemble.
- Large Engraving Area: The active working area is 15.75” x 15.75” x 2.36” (400 x 400 x 60mm). It is large enough for daily woodworking. It supports extension kit to enlarge the working area; and the extension kit will be available soon!
- Class leading values got even easier to use. Pre-assembled and no fuss with assembly taking less than 30 minutes out of the box. An entry-level CNC for anyone who wants to learn a new skill, work on an artwork project, design a DIY gift, or start a small business.
- Still based on open-source Grbl v1.1 the PROVer has stepped up to more powerful but silent Toshiba TB6S109 drivers with added life and performance along with added Optocouplers to protect your mainboard from hard stops without risk of damage and eliminate signal noise for more consistent projects and longevity.
- Make more with the all-aluminum body and take advantage of the added stability for milling a wider range of materials while also making clean up even easier with acrylic safety baffles to help contain dust and provide a safety barrier.
- Take control of your 3018-PROVer Desktop CNC machine with controls at your fingertips. Now the 3018-PROVer comes with the upgraded offline controller. It has improved its compatibility with gcode and could jog each axis continuously with a long press of the button. Also, it equipped to diagnose 3 types of ERR and 9 types of ALARM error prompt messages.
- CAD/CAM software to design then convert your ideas into instructions (GCode) that the router can understand and execute (common options are Carveco, Fusion360 and Easel). If you get stuck, check out the SainSmart Resource Center (see at User Guide) or contact us with any questions that arise.
- A rigid laser cut 5-Ply Baltic Birch frame with SG20U supported rail system.
- GT2 9mm belt drive on X and Y-axis and Tr8 Acme Rod mounted with an ACME Nut on the Z-axis.
- NEMA 17 Stepper Motors and Home switches on all axes with a Self-Squaring Gantry.
- 1/2” MDF, with aluminum T-Slot Spoilboard and includes the Makita RT0701C Variable Speed Router.
- Designed to use GRBL1.1 firmware on the Arduino Uno with repeatability of 0.002” to 0.004”.
- 【Upgrade Version CNC 3018 PRO】※ Frame size: 30x26x25CM. Working area:18x10x4.5CM. Material: Aluminum Alloy. Spindle: 775 spindle motor (12-24V) 24V:10000r/min. Stepper motor: 42 stepper motor, 12V, phase current 1.3A, phase resistance 2.1 ohms, torque 0.25N.m
- 【Material/Dimensions】※ The fixed external frame is made of black injection molding material, working table is aluminum alloy material. Screw rods uses stainless steel quality. It can able to engraving in plane by moving X/Y/Zaxis. High precision and durability and good appearance.
- 【Simple Assembly/Use】※ This mini cnc router machine kit is mainly designed for DIY carving enthusiasts/beginners, easily assembled and opertated, coming with a paper manual and USB flash drive of all the files. Please let us know if you need any help.
- 【Update GRBL Board】※ The updated control board has added the functions of supporting emergency stop button and X/Y/Z axis limit, and the functions are more complete. Users can design and equip those DIY accessories suitable for this mini engraving machine according to their own needs. Equipped with a silent cooling fan, which can dissipate heat quickly during operation, with low noise and good quality. Also, the control board can automatically identify the offline controller, support PWM.
- 【Applicable Engraving Material】※ CNC 3018 PRO machine can not only engraving wood/plastic/acrylic/ pvc/pcb/carbon fiber/density board and so on, but also soft metal like copper, aluminum and the similar materials. Howerever, harder materials cannot be engraved such as glass, hard metal, jade, ect.
- Masuter 4040 is a budget-friendly CNC router with large working area of 400 x 380 x 55mm (15.75” x 14.96” x 2.16”). It uses a 60W spindle and NEMA17 stepper motors. Max moving speed is 2000mm/min and spindle speed range is 0~10000.
- The control board is equipped with an upgraded 32-bit chip which works more efficient and stable. It also supports add-ons such as offline controller, 300W spindle and power modules. (Add-ons sold separately)
- Masuter 4040 is capable to engrave, cut and drill many kinds of material such as wood, MDF, acrylic and resin etc. Recommended settings: speed-1000mm/min; depth per pass-0.2mm; plunge rate-200mm/min.
- HOME function and Emergency-Stop button are integrated on the machine. The machine will go to home with simply press the button.
- Main parts are pre-assembled. It takes about 20-30mins to fully assembly. The machine is compatible with Grbl software. It supports Windows XP/7/10, Linux and Mac OS.
- 4040-XE CNC Router uses 300W spindle and NEMA23 stepper motors, which are more powerful and efficient. Max moving speed is 2000mm/min and spindle speed range is 0~10000.
- Control board, power supply, emergency stop, and wires are integrated into a newly design box, which is simple for operation, easy to clean and safe. The controller has a 3.5” touchscreen LCD which also functions as an offline controller. The input voltage is 110V.
- It’s capable to engrave, cut and drill many different kinds of material such as wood, metal, MDF, acrylic, foam, resin, nylon, carbon fiber, PCB and etc. It’s great for home use and business.
- Large engravable area of 15.75”x15.75”x2.56” (400x400x65mm). It’s capable to handle both small and large material. The CNC machine is based on GRBL, it is compatible with GRBL-control software.
- Easy assembly. Main parts are pre-assembled, it only takes 15-30mins to fully assembly. Wires are labeled clearly for fast connection and bundled into drag chain for easy management.
- 𝐌𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐏𝐫𝐞𝐜𝐢𝐬𝐞: LE400 Pro laser cutter and engraver adopts spot compression laser technology, and the laser focus spot is as fine as 0.08 x 0.08 mm, which makes the engraving and cutting effect very fine. The pre-assembled parts of the machine are carefully tuned to ensure the high precision of the laser's work.
- 𝐄𝐲𝐞 𝐏𝐫𝐨𝐭𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐃𝐞𝐬𝐢𝐠𝐧: The laser engraver machine is equipped with a laser protective cover protects your eyes without wearing goggles when you are engraving wood and metal, filter UV light for 97%. The laser protective cover adopts a humanized magnetic design, which makes the assembly easier and more convenient.
- 𝐅𝐚𝐬𝐭 𝐅𝐨𝐜𝐮𝐬: The focal length of the laser is a fixed value, no need to adjust the focus before engraving which traditional zoom lasers can not do! And the laser power of the fixed-focus laser is more stable. What's more, the design of using the knob to control the lifting of the device makes focusing more convenient and accurate.
- 𝐄𝐚𝐬𝐲 𝐭𝐨 𝐀𝐬𝐬𝐞𝐦𝐛𝐥𝐞: Full aluminum alloy modular can typically be assembled in 20 minutes. The structure makes the machine more solid, and improves the accuracy of engraving. Also equipped with a convenient power switch for easy power off at any time.
- 𝐖𝐢𝐝𝐞 𝐂𝐨𝐦𝐩𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐛𝐢𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐲: The laser engraving machine can be compatible with LaserGRBL, LightBurn. LaserGRBL (free software) supports Win XP / Win 7 / Win 8 / XP / Win 10 / Win 11. LightBurn (paid software) supports Windows, Mac OS. Engraving file format supports NC, BMP, JPG, PNG, DXF, etc. In addition, we have a professional US technical team and support website to solve all your problems 7*24 hours.
- ⭐️Easy to Use and Economical: Our 3018Pro+ CNC machine is an advanced carving, milling and engraving machine at a very fair price.Assemble in less than 30 minutes out of the box. Designed for both new and experienced enthusiasts, this machine will grow with your job needs. We can offer a 3040 frame and bed expansion kit, and a 65mm makita / dewalt router head attachment . Send us a message about you needs, we respond and ship quickly!
- ⭐️Strong All metal structure: NO PLASTIC FRAME PARTS ! The body frame is extra-thick aluminum alloy. Drives are Leadscrew driven. The solid steel rails are 12mm thick with bearing slides. A powerful 500W 52mm motor with E11 collet is included which can engrave and cut many materials including aluminum. The massive all-metal Z-Axis has a whopping 60mm of vertical travelallowing you to use 1/4” bits! Your creation possibilities can go to the next level while saving money.
- ⭐️Widely compatible with Industry Software: Mainboard is GRBL v1.1, compatible with related design and control software. Software and assembly instructions are included. And we are happy to answer all support questions.
- ⭐️Safety: The machine is equipped with 6 limit switches and an emergency stop switch which provides safety for you and your creations.
- ⭐️Experience, Quality and No Hassle: WE ARE THE MANUFACTURER, this is how we are able to offer you a low price for this beautiful higher end CNC mill + Laser engraver machine. Again, please feel free to ask us any questions through Amazon, we are here to assist you 24/7. We are experts with CNC and laser machines and we can “talk technical” with you about parts, setting up your machine, settings optimization, and our available upgrade kits.
- Easy to Set Up: The pre-assembled module of XYZ axis and wires dramatically reduces effort of assembly, allowing you to start carving your projects in less time. 3-Month Carveco Maker Subscription is included. Turning your ideas into the next fun project or your own work of art will be much easier with Carveco Maker. We will email you the subscription link after you place the order.
- More Power: New completely redesigned control box and drive system, beefy C-BEAM Frame, precision NEMA 23 stepper motors, High Power Spindle and included adapter for a drop in Dewalt DWP611 upgrade.
- No additional parts required: Everything you need out of the box, no stripped down kits or addons, the Genmitsu PROVerXL 4030 CNC router already includes all of the accessories and components you need at an affordable price, including XYZ axis limit switches, emergency stop switches,speed control, Z-probe and more.
- Precision and Performance: Rigid C-beam structure,Leadscrew Driven, Y-axis Dual screw drive, Z-Axis Optical Axis Drive delivers more stability than the traditional v-slot drive. It's ideal for an endless variety of cutting, drilling, and carving operations on various materials including wood, MDF, plastics, foams, vinyl, and aluminum.
- Built to suit your needs: The PROVerXL CNC platform is just the beginning, if you are looking for an even larger machine get the upgrade kit available in 2 additional sizes 24”x 24”( 600 x 600mm), and up to 40” x 40” (1000 x 1000mm). Equip your machine with High Powered Laser Modules with up to 15W of true power output. Evolve with your CNC, upgrade as you go, or start big and get to making MORE.
Last update on 2022-11-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
What Exactly Is the CNC Router?
A computer numerical control, or better known as a CNC router, is a computerized version of your traditional handheld routers. By using the aid of computers and virtual designs, the CNC router can be used to cut or mill a wide range of materials.
These routers are extremely popular, within large scale furniture manufacturers, as the device helps cut down production time, while also reducing wastage. Apart from cutting into wood, these routers also work great with steel, aluminum, plastic, and foam.
If you’re not looking for an industrial-sized CNC router, other smaller CNC routers are available that do the same job. They’re the perfect fit for small-time businesses and small-scale projects.
How Does a CNC Router Work?
For you to use these machines, you’ll have to have a basic knowledge of CAD and other graphic software. After you’re through this little hurdle, using this machine will become a piece of cake.
Once you create your vector design on your computer using CAD, render the file on your computer as a G-code. Once you get through this, you need to input the G-code onto the CNC router and input the material to be worked on.
By using a set of sensors, the CNC router traces a path according to the design. After which, a set of motors, guide the router along the route, thus providing a clean and accurate cut.
What Is the Difference between a CNC Router and a CNC Engraving Machine?
If you’re looking to have a design, such as a flower carved into a piece of wood, then the CNC engraving machine is the one for you. It is usually used to engrave in intricate designs onto wood, steel, or other materials.
Although these too can cut planks of wood into different shapes, however, this option on an engraving machine can be notably slower. Taking into account that the engraving tool has to work with an extreme level of precision.
On the other hand, the CNC tool is perfect if you’re looking to get a quick cut. Its main job is to provide a rapid output rate, to cut out various sized shapes. You’ll also be able to improve your production rate and lower the amount of wastage that occurs.
What to Look for before Buying
Before we list down the products available in the market, we’d like you to go through this buying guide. It contains detailed data on what to look out for when considering your purchase.
- Durability & Reliability
These investments are going to be quite a significant burden on your wallet, so you must make sure that they last a while. For this reason, durability is a huge factor to have in mind.
The durability of a device can be checked using quite a few techniques; for example, have a look at the build of the product. Most are made of aluminum; these give the device stability and the strength to handle workplace accidents. You’re also going to check where your product is made from.
And the reliability of the device will also be of grave importance. You can check about this factor by looking at the specifications of your device. If the product includes an electric adapter, it’ll supply the machine with a stable electrical current.
Furthermore, check your main circuit board. Those that include cooling fans and heat sinks will be able to work continuously without fail.
Most software that comes installed onto these machines, such as the GRBL motion sensor software, is compatible with most operating systems. However, there are a few that require unique OSs to operate. Before you make your choice, make sure you have that OS available to run the device.
This is one of the most important factors to keep in mind, and will ultimately depend on your requirements. When selecting a CNC, make sure it meets your project size requirements, i.e., length, width, and height.
It is always recommended that you buy a device that larger than your required size. The bigger one will be a bit more expensive. However, it’ll pay off its worth in the long run.
CNC machines can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands, the price will be mainly dependent on your use of the device. However, most beginner machines won’t cost you thousands. These should be priced within $1000 and below $400 for smaller sized models.
Myths Of CNC Machining
ehave made “lights-out manufacturing” more accessible. Still, issues will always arise. Tools break. Parts shift. Inserts wear down. Sooner or later, it will become necessary for operators to intervene in order to maintain part quality and correct or prevent problems on the machine.
Manufacturing can be an intimidating space for the uninitiated. With new machining processes and technology springing up on the market, it’s easy to become lost in the weeds and get scared off by the sheer volume of information available.
CNC machining, in particular, can leave folks scratching their heads. Many believe that CNC is a piece of cake, and will dive into uncharted waters without the proper research and training. Others will steer clear of CNC machining entirely for fear that it is too large of an undertaking. The truth is, CNC machining can be extremely accessible, but it is helpful to understand what it is and is not before you get started. Below, we’ll dispel some common myths.
Myth #1: No Experience Necessary
Machine manufacturers throughout the industry will all make claims about how user-friendly their CNC is. The latest machining centers come equipped with visual programming systems, automatic tool presetters, high-tech work probes and a wide variety of tools and add-ons to simplify the machining process. But at the end of the day, a machine is only as good as its operator, and it takes time to build up a familiarity with the CNC process and the tools and procedures required to effectively produce quality parts on a consistent basis.
For anyone new to CNC machining, it’s always best to seek help from those with more experience. Training is available online and in-person through most machine retailers. Tooling and material vendors can help educate users on proper cutters, feeds/speeds, work holding, etc. Online forums are a great resource to post problems and seek solutions to challenges you may be facing. There is always something new to learn in the world of CNC machining.
Myth #2: “Set it and Forget it”
There is a common misunderstanding that once you run a part on a CNC, it will continue churning out high-quality components without issue. It is true that there have been significant advancements in machine automation: Modern technology (bar feeders, part loaders, pallet systems and more) have made “lights-out manufacturing” more accessible. Still, issues will always arise. Tools break. Parts shift. Inserts wear down. Sooner or later, it will become necessary for operators to intervene in order to maintain part quality and correct or prevent problems on the machine.
Myth #3: Predictability of Production Time
With the advent of modern CAD/CAM systems, it has become increasingly simple to calculate production time for a given component. You can track cycle time for any number of parts, and you can even determine the run time for specific tooling operations. All of that information is fantastic for quoting and estimating how much machine time will go into a particular order. That said, CNC machining is never perfect. It can be difficult to anticipate when a certain tool will fail, or when a piece of equipment will break down and require maintenance. There are numerous ways to incur production delays, so it is always best to err on the side of caution when attempting to predict production time on your CNC.
Myth #4: G/M Code is a Thing of the Past
To machine a part, a CNC needs to know what operations to perform and how to perform them. To accomplish this, operators used to type in a lengthy series of numbers and letters (known in the industry as G Code or M code) which were used to communicate with the machine and get it to execute its functions. Today, the vast majority of shops rely on 3D CAM systems (computer-aided manufacture) to define their tools, workpiece, cutting paths, drill cycles and more. Similarly, many machines rely on visual programming systems that allow operators to program parts by simply adding a few dimensions to a library of stock machining operations.
Given these advanced programming tools, G/M Code should be obsolete, right? Wrong. Whether it’s a visual system at the machine, or the latest CAM software, they all are outputting code. The same G and M code that operators have been using for decades, just without the headache of manually typing it in. This code can still be edited and tweaked by operators to improve cutting efficiencies, adjust offsets, change tool paths and more. Even a skilled CAM programmer would benefit from a basic understanding of the raw code, as it can be essential when troubleshooting errors and identifying problem areas during machining.
Myth 5: Everything is Automated
We have seen incredible advancements in the world of machine automation. Many of these technologies have been adopted by large manufacturing outfits to increase capacity and speed up production. That said, even the most robust system of automation technology would not function without skilled operators and programmers.
Machines fail, and it takes a human to get the system back up and running. It would be unwise to invest a great deal of time and money into the latest and greatest tech without a team of experienced CNC professionals overseeing the operation. While the automation equipment available today is impressive and exciting, the majority of shops are nowhere near full automation, relying on talented machinists and programmers to design and manufacture their parts.
Myth #6: CNC Machining is Expensive
CNC machining is becoming more and more affordable. The combination of CAD/CAM software and modern machining centers has made it easier than ever to take a part from conception to production. Built-in CNC features allow operators to setup parts faster than ever, and today’s cutting tools and high-speed machining operations have significantly reduced cycle times. It can still be quite costly to run parts in small quantities, due to shop minimums and the operator/programmer time involved in each CNC job, but as production numbers increase, part prices can drop exponentially.
Myth #7: CNC isn’t for the Little Guys
This is just plain wrong. With more and more machine manufacturers competing in the space, CNC equipment has never been more accessible. Machining centers come in every shape and size, so smaller shops are not limited by floor space. Most equipment providers offer machines in a variety of models with a wide range of optional features, which means customers can custom-order a CNC to meet their exact budget and specifications. Though still in its infancy, we have seen a growing market for desktop CNC machines as well. You could literally have a water jet or CNC mill running in a small office or classroom.
Myth #8: CNC Programmers Don’t Need to Know How to Machine
The best programmers work closely with operators to understand the ins and outs of the machining process. Many programmers start out as machinists themselves. The information gleaned from time on the machine proves invaluable when sitting down to work in a CAM environment. While creating a program, there are a number of factors to account for including work holding, tool lengths, cutter types, speeds/feeds, machining paths and so much more. It is not uncommon for new programmers to generate a program that runs beautifully in their CAM software, only to watch it fail miserably when it reaches the machine. While you can learn to program successfully without a background in machining, it will be a long and challenging road.
Myth #9: A CNC Machine Can Make Anything
There are no shortage of mind-blowing videos online highlighting the latest features of modern machining centers. Multi-axis mills and live-tooling lathes will produce some of the most beautiful and complex components you’ll ever see. That said, even the most advanced piece of CNC equipment has its limitations. Understanding a CNC’s capabilities is critical when designing and manufacturing parts. Some features simply cannot be machined. This could be due to a particular machine restriction, such as range of motion or cutting envelope. It could also be dependent on factors that go beyond the CNC itself such as tooling, material type, part geometry and more. Modern CNC machining centers can do amazing things, but there can always come a point when their limits will be reached.
Myth #10: CNCs are Built to Last
Like it or not, CNC machines will break down. They operate under a great deal of stress and are subject to incredible amounts of wear and tear. Executing complex machining operations at high speeds will eventually take its toll, and sooner or later machine maintenance becomes a necessity. A skilled operator will not only be able to run the machine, but they will also be able to fix it when failures inevitably occur. A preventative maintenance schedule is highly encouraged to limit machine downtime and avoid unnecessary stoppages.
Myth #11: We’ve Seen it All in the World of CNC
The manufacturing industry is constantly growing and evolving. Advancements in CNC machining have made technology that once seemed futuristic easily accessible for small shops, hobbyists and educators. Additive manufacturing has taken off, and we’ve only just begun to capitalize on all that 3D printing has to offer. There has never been a better time to get involved in the world of CNC machining, and it will be exciting to see what new products and equipment become available in the years to come.
For those on a budget or those who are just beginning their CNC journey then look no further than the BobsCNC E4 CNC Router Engraver Kit. The self-assembly aspect of this kit is a great way to learn more about how CNC routers work and at the end of it, you will have created a good quality machine from which to learn on. The smaller cutting area and compact footprint of the BobsCNC E4 CNC Router Engraver Kit make it perfect for keeping in the house or in a garage space whilst its cutting area is still adequately sized for most starter projects. With rave reviews on Amazon and a great customer service team this CNC router is built to please and that’s why it receives our recommendation as the best CNC router for those on a budget.